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Articles of 2004

Wladimir Klitschko: That Last One Percent

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What is going through his mind? I'm talking about the heavyweight contender who no more than 18 months ago was thought by many respected boxing observers to be the heir apparent to heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis—Wladimir Klitschko. On March 7th 2003, Wladimir was considered the more complete and better overall fighter than his older brother Vitali, who is currently the WBC heavyweight champ and presumed to be the most formidable heavyweight alive.

On March 7th last year, Wladimir was all the rage and being trumped by HBO as the future of the heavyweight division who couldn't miss. He had it all. He had the size at slightly over 6'5″ and weighing in the 240-245 range. Over the seven years he had been fighting as a pro, Wladimir showed good boxing skill and pretty quick hands for a fighter so big. But the thing that stood out about Wladimir was how fluid he put his punches together. And not only did he put his punches together, but he could really hit with both hands. Wladimir also did something that all fighters, not just heavyweights, don't do enough, if at all. He hooked off his jab to the head and body which enabled him to close the distance between him and his opponent.

Wladimir could boast what no other heavyweight in the world could. To go along with his size and two handed knockout power, he could also box. In the heavyweight division, there is only one thing that can keep a skilled heavyweight like Klitschko from ruling it. What kind of chin does he have and how good of a punch does he take? It doesn't matter who it is, somewhere along the line a world class heavyweight is going to get caught with a bomb from his opponent. What happens after that will determine if he's for real or not.

On March 8th 2003, Wladimir Klitschko defended his WBO heavyweight title against South African knockout artist Corrie Sanders. Despite a chin that was still a question mark, Klitschko was heavily favored to beat Sanders without much trouble. Midway through the first round, the southpaw Sanders smashed a beautiful straight left hand against Klitschko's lower jaw that dropped him like his legs were taken out from underneath him. Wladimir was badly hurt, but beat the count only to be sent back down.  Wlad beat the count again, but barely made it back to his corner after the first round.  At the start of the second round, it was clear that Klitschko was still foggy and Sanders jumped right on him putting him down twice more leading to the fight being stopped.

I've said this before and I'll say it as long as I'm breathing, regardless of how magnificently talented and skilled a heavyweight fighter is offensively and defensively, he better have a big time chin as his last line of defense. In professional boxing, a fight can end at anytime with just one punch. However, this is even more likely in the heavyweight division, simply because all heavyweights can hit.

After being stopped by Sanders in two rounds, Wladimir was written off by just about everybody. The thought was, he had everything a top heavyweight needed to win the title, but it was what he lacked in durability that defined him most. In the Klitschko camp, the knockout by Sanders was thought as being nothing more than Wladimir getting caught with a big shot early in the fight by a proven knockout artist. To his credit, Wladimir got right back in the ring and scored knockout wins over two journeymen shortly after losing to Sanders.

Thirteen months after being stopped by Sanders, Wladimir came full circle. On April 10th he fought Lamon Brewster for the vacant WBO title. During the first four rounds of the fight, Klitschko hit Brewster with every punch in the book and even dropped him in the fourth round. Brewster, who has a cast iron chin, endured some massive power shots from Klitschko that would have knocked out most of the world's heavyweight elite.

In the 5th round the tide turned completely, and Brewster dropped Klitschko. Wladimir beat the count, but was out on his feet leading referee Robert Byrd to stop the fight at the end of the round. In a fight that Klitschko was winning handily, Brewster turned it around completely with one clean punch landed squarely on the jaw. A punch that Wladimir never recovered from, ultimately leading to him being stopped for the third time in his career.

It's been six months since Wladimir Klitschko 42-3 (39) was stopped by Lamon Brewster. Tonight he fights DaVarryl Williamson 20-2 (17) in the featured heavyweight fight at the new outdoor Amphitheatre at Caesars Palace. Williamson is also on the comeback trail since being stopped by Joe Mesi in the first round in September 2003.

“I think enough time has passed,” Klitschko said. “It's not easy for me to handle getting upset in April. It is past. I think this fight with DaVarryl Williamson is going to be very, very interesting because everyone is wondering which one of us will survive. I am focused and looking forward to it.”

I can't help thinking what is going through Wladimir's head? No doubt his confidence is reeling. And as much as he tries to justify what happened against Sanders and Brewster as a fluke or just one of those things, there's a voice in his head that is always whispering that it wasn't. That voice tells him that the skeptics and critics are right, his chin is his Achilles heel and will betray him again.

He'll even have to fight himself. His instinct will be to fight careful and smart, only punching when he feels safe and can't be countered by his opponent. In other words, instead of exchanging, he'll either be on offense or defense, just to keep from getting caught with that one shot that's capable of ending it for him. Somewhere down the road, but maybe not in this fight, he'll realize that he can't win by fighting not to lose.

I haven't been told by him, but my guess is that this is his last shot. I think Wladimir has it in his head that he's going to fight until he either wins the title, or is stopped again. And if he is stopped again, there will be only a slight difference in his mindset from what it is now.

The difference will be instead of being 99% convinced that, because of genetics, he'll never realize his dream, he'll be 100% convinced, and he will finally be able to let go knowing that he gave it his best shot, but it wasn't meant to be.

At this time he's being driven by that last one percent. And it's so hard to let it go as long as he still has it!

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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